Rachael and Roger Brunsting of Orange City may be Northwestern College’s Parents of the Year for 2008, but they don’t believe the title describes them.
This year’s Northwestern Parents of the Year, Rachael and Roger Brunsting, have had four daughters attend NWC. The family includes (front row, left to right): Rebekah Kuiken '10, Alicia Kuiken '07; (middle): Rachael, Roger; (back): Austin Janssen '07, Carissa (Kuiken '05) Janssen, Candace (Kuiken '07) Van Marel and Blayne Van Marel '06.
“We’re a true picture of God’s grace and faithfulness,” says Rachael. “That’s all you can say about our family.”
The couple will be recognized at halftime of Northwestern’s football game against Dakota Wesleyan University on Saturday, Nov. 8, as part of the college’s Fall Family Weekend. Married since 2001, the Brunstings became a blended family after meeting at Maurice Reformed Church. Rachael’s first husband, Bruce Kuiken, died in 1993; Roger was divorced.
Rachael’s four daughters ranged in age from 12 to 18 when she married Roger. Three—Carissa Janssen, Candace Van Marel and Alicia Kuiken—are now graduates of Northwestern, while the youngest, Rebekah Kuiken, is a sophomore. Two are also married to Northwestern graduates: Austin Janssen and Blayne Van Marel.
At times, Rachael worked more than one job to put her daughters through college.
“I didn’t realize the sacrifice she made then, but today I cherish her invaluable gift—a college education,” says Carissa.
For eight years, Rachael worked part time in Northwestern’s career development and counseling centers—at times ending her work week with a 12-hour overnight shift as a resident assistant at Landsmeer Ridge Retirement Community. She now is the senior care secretary for Landsmeer. Roger is employed as an assembly technician and trainer for EZ-Liner Industries.
In nominating their parents for the award, the sisters wrote of their support and service.
Alicia described the process of discovering her passions and talents and finding a career. “My parents’ patient strength and confidence in God’s guidance helped me set aside my apprehensions and follow my heart,” she said.
The Brunstings supported the girls in other ways as well. Rachael was known to wear a huge number 20—the football jersey of future son-in-law Austin—on her head at games. Roger’s ability to build anything came in handy when it came to space-saving inventions for dorm rooms.
They also reached out to other college students, inviting them over for Sunday lunch, followed by games and laughter. During holidays, they welcomed students living far from home to join their family for dinner.
“We fed a lot of people through the years,” Rachael says. “Our home is always open. That’s one of the fun things about having your kids in town when they’re in college. It’s a great way to meet their friends.”